Whitepaper: Telemental Health and the COVID-19 Behavioral Health Crisis
Authors: Anosha Zanjani, Brian Giebink, Kathleen Woods & Kimberly McMurray
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn has adversely affected the mental health of the nation and has created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. Stress, loneliness, depression, and fear have plagued the globe, and the trauma experienced from isolation, uncertainty, fear and loss is evident in the general population. This phenomenon has resulted in a second curve that needs flattening—a global behavioral health crisis—creating another public health emergency in conjunction with COVID-191. Beginning March 2020, we continue to see an increase in mental health issues among the general population while organizations begin to plan ahead as demands begin to elevate. What is being done to help meet this coming surge? A significant emphasis has been placed on telehealth as a means to deliver care during and after this pandemic. Telemental services enable psychiatrists and psychologists to not only provide treatment digitally but also mitigate the increase of psychiatric capacity across entire systems. The use of this service also allows for increased access to specialists, improved safety, decreased liability and reduced readmissions, hospital admissions, transport costs and emergency department (ED) boarding.
This analysis/investigation looks at telehealth as a protective measure during this pandemic and as a resource for therapy and crisis treatment during the COVID-19 behavioral health crisis and beyond—this form of treatment delivery can have a significantly positive outcome in advancing the treatment of an underserved patient population. We will also provide an up-close examination of the possible spatial implications of the mass adoption of this platform as it relates to the continuum of care.